HAMPSHIRE police are joining forces with a national initiative called Operation Recall to raise awareness about the dangers of dogs worrying livestock.

Livestock worrying refers to incidents where dogs chase or attack farm animals on agricultural land.

This can cause significant stress, injury, or even death to the animals, and can also have a negative impact on farmers' livelihoods.

Under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953, it is a criminal offence for a dog to worry livestock.

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Dog owners who do not keep their pets under control around farm animals could face prosecution.

Operation Recall was started last year with national animal welfare charities, including Naturewatch Foundation and the RSPCA, joining forces with police and the National Rural Crime Unit (NRCU) to raise awareness and help tackle the issue.

Geoff Edmond, national wildlife co-ordinator at the RSPCA, said: “While the vast majority of dog owners take care as a matter of course, sadly accidents can happen and even the most docile and obedient dogs can get distracted and excited by grazing animals.

“Being chased by a dog causes the animals stress and anxiety, this can lead to pregnancy loss in livestock, and in some extreme cases, severe attacks can happen which have a devastating effect on the livestock, resulting in injury and even death. This also has an adverse impact on the farmers themselves, both in terms of their livelihood and the emotional toll of seeing their animals suffer.

“Some actions in life, we can’t avoid. This one we can.”

Some key points to bear in mind this time of year to help with the welfare of livestock and your dog:

  • If you come across a sheep on its back, try to roll it over and raise the alarm with the farmer if this is possible.

  • It is so important to keep dogs either on leads or under close control around livestock.

  • If you are walking your dog in a field and there is no livestock, please keep the dog in sight at all times, be aware of what it is doing, and be confident it will return to you promptly on command. If you cannot be confident of this, the dog should not be off the lead.

  • Ensure the dog does not stray off the path or area where you have right of access.

  • It is a criminal offence for a dog to actively worry livestock. We want owners to be aware that in such instances, the owner or person in control of the dog can be prosecuted, and as a last resort the dog can be shot by the farmer to end an attack.

Kate Salmon, Operation Recall lead for Naturewatch Foundation, said: “The consequences of livestock attacks for all animals involved, including the dogs, can be devastating. Some people go out for a walk with their dog, or unknowingly allow their dog to escape their property and return home without their family pet. With more awareness and self-responsibility people can enjoy their pets, whilst keeping them and livestock safe. We’re calling for everyone to protect their dog and protect livestock.”

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Police Staff Investigator Andrew Williams, from Hampshire & Isle of Wight Constabulary’s Country Watch team said: “Sadly we do receive regular reports in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight of livestock worrying, including incidents of sheep and lambs being killed and seriously injured.

“Shepherds report that they get a mixed response from dog owners when challenged, some are apologetic but others can be hostile.

“We are fast approaching the Easter Holidays when we know people will be making the most of the open spaces our counties have to offer. I would like to remind dog owners that they must be mindful of livestock – even if they can’t see them – when out enjoying the countryside. I would also like to encourage all dog owners to ensure they have control over their dogs at all times and to seek training wherever possible.

“Remember – protect your dog and protect livestock. It is your responsibility as an owner to keep your dog safe and keep your dog on a lead.”

For more information on Operation Recall, visit: naturewatch.org/campaigns/operation-recall.